It’s an issue that dates back to World War II: Making sure American servicemen and servicewomen have the ability to cast a vote in a presidential election, no matter where they’re stationed.
With the passage of the Soldier Voting Act of 1942, it was settled: Military members would be given easy access to vote.
And ahead of Election Day, Specialist Tiauana Moran said she wanted to ensure her voice was heard.
“I just want to vote, to make sure my community and family are taken care of, and since I serve the nation, this is a right that should never be denied to me,” Moran said.
Moran, who’s currently deployed in Poland, cast her first-ever absentee ballot for this year’s election.
“This will not be my first time voting, but it will be my first time voting overseas, and the stakes were too high to just sit back and not vote because of a lack of knowledge,” she said.
Although voting is a common task for many Americans, for most soldiers, it is a very unorthodox method -- voting overseas, that is, but the process is quite simple.
Basically, a military member files an absentee ballot with the state where he or she is registered to vote, or that person speaks with the S1 section in their unit, which is the personnel support for military units.
After obtaining and filling out a ballot, the soldier mails it back.
Although the process of sending the vote is relatively simple, consider that there are fewer than 5 million U.S. citizens living abroad, according to an Associated Press report. Those people include ones who are serving in the military and embassies or just living in another country.
About 2.9 million of those people were of voting age in 2018, a study by the Federal Voting Assistance Program showed.
In the 2000 presidential election, Republican nominee George W. Bush relied on 537 ballots to tilt Florida in his direction. That’s what it took for him to beat out Democratic nominee Al Gore.
Monica Duffy Toft, a professor of international politics, told the AP she’s seen how different voting blocs, even small ones, can affect the outcome of elections.
“Three million people is more than enough people to decide a presidential or congressional race with narrow margins,” she said.
Toft said that’s why it’s more important than ever for overseas voters to actually vote.
“As soon as I realized I wouldn’t be home for this election, I had my boyfriend look into it, and that’s how I figured how to cast my absentee ballot vote,” Moran said. “For some people, the election is not really that important, but for soldiers, this is everything, and our votes directly affect our lives.”
Unfortunately for Moran, and most soldiers currently serving overseas, they will be delayed in finding out who won the election, but it’s likely that there will be a delay for most Americans, too.
“To be honest, it doesn’t bother me to have wait until I return home or get ahold of some internet to find out who won the election, but if I had not placed my vote, that decision would have weighed more on my conscious, because I would know my lack of voting helped the other candidate win the election," Moran said.
Experts anticipate Americans could be waiting days or even weeks to find out who will serve as president.